Good working relationships are essential to getting work done and to a satisfying work place. But what can we do when relationships turn sour? You could have a closure conversation with the person.
One of the managers in my Mastery in Execution class had a very poor working relationship with a woman at work and it was affecting his work. As he reports it, “She does poor work and it is frequently late. I can’t count on her and her failure to do the work is costing me. Do you have any recommendations for what I can do to make her do what she she is suppose to?”
As we talked, he revealed that because he did not particularly like the woman, he didn’t interact with her the same as he did with others with whom he had a good relationship. He mentioned that he tended to be more abrupt and less engaging with her, simply telling her what he wanted rather than really taking the time to talk to her. Additionally, he was dismissive of the reasons she gave for not getting things done and got quickly frustrated when she failed to perform.
Based on what he said, I proposed that he could have a closure conversation with her in which he (1) acknowledge the breakdown in their relationship, (2) apologize for how he had interacted with her and the impact it must have had on her, and (3) express his interest in building a more effective working relationship with her. Not surprising, he was very hesitant about having such a conversation and said “I don’t think I can do that or that it will work, but thanks.”
Several days later, the manager approached me after class and reported “I had the closure conversation with the woman I told you about. It was hard for me to do that, but it really did change things between us. She told me she knew I treated her differently than others, but didn’t know why and that she too, wanted a better working relationship. It turns out that she frequently didn’t understand my directions and didn’t feel like she could ask me for clarification. I was shocked because I thought I was clear! Anyway, we agreed I would take more time to explain what I wanted and to help her when she has problem or questions. Things are already much better, thanks.”
Have a relationship that is not up to what you would like it to be? You might consider having a closure conversation with them.